There’s been a disturbance in the Force.
In the days immediately after Baby Yoda made his first appearance on The Mandalorian, there was a mad rush for merch and people were dismayed to see how little there was to be had. So people did what people are wont to do and began making their own.
Even though there’s now plenty of official Baby Yoda stuff on the way, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to cash in on the kid’s likeness, which is to be expected.
What’s also unsurprising, though still rather unsettling to see, are knockoff T-shirts like the ones ABC News reporter Will Steakin saw this week at a Milwaukee Trump rally coordinated to coincide with the seventh Democratic primary debate, which is being held in Iowa. Next to a shirt featuring Marvel’s Punisher logo wearing a head of orange hair meant to resemble Trump’s, a vendor was selling a T-shirt with Disney’s Baby Yoda whose trademark tiny robe has the phrase “Great America Keep” written across it.
FWIW the vender said it’s “not selling as good as I thought it would.”
— Will Steakin (@wsteaks) January 14, 2020
According to Steakin, the vendor selling the shirts explained that they weren’t exactly selling all that well, which could be for any number of reasons ranging from the fact that the shirt just doesn’t look all that good to the fact that...the entire Star Wars franchise is about people fighting back against the rising tide of Nazi-esque fascism. Go figure.
But seeing Baby Yoda and the Punisher-as-Trump on shirts side by side at a political rally highlights how Disney’s consistently chosen not to pay attention to instances in which its intellectual property is illegally marketed to people with the express purpose of expressing political rhetoric that reads as draconian.
There have been more than a few instances of officers in police departments across the country using the Punisher symbol as an unofficial logo that’s often associated with Blue Lives Matter. The implication is that like the Punisher, the police see themselves as the sole arbiters of law and order and people who should be able to shoot anyone with impunity.
With a character like Baby Yoda, the message isn’t quite as overtly violent and threatening. Yet it sends the message that the creature, who canonically cannot speak yet, would support a political platform that’s been defined by racism, sexism, violating the Constitution, and stoking international conflicts in order to distract the public from the president’s impeachment.
Disney, one of the most powerful companies in the world, could easily discourage people from doing these kinds of things with the characters it owns if it wanted to. (We’ve reached out to the studio for comment, and will update if and when we hear back.) Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.